Tucked away amid the rolling hills on Route 67 is the town of Roxbury. The Mohegan Indians named the area “Shepaug”, which means “rocky water”, for the beautiful, meandering river that cuts through its lowest valleys. The area became Roxbury when it was settled in 1713, and is true to its name considering the abundance of New England fieldstone walls crisscrossing its picturesque, rural landscape.
Though Roxbury experienced a burst of industry in the field of mining during the mid 19th century, it is today still primarily an agricultural area with several working farms. Look no further than the Maple Bank Farm www.maplebankfarm.com, one of the oldest family run farms in America, for locally grown produce, herbs, flowers, woolens, maple syrup and more. It has been in the Hurlbut family since the 1700’s. (Photo above: One of Roxbury Land Trust’s serene vistas.)
Iconic well-preserved historic homes and churches surround Roxbury’s quiet town center and green. Visually, not much has changed since its incorporation over two centuries ago – and that is the way its residents like it. Roxbury consists of 99.9% residential zoning and the town has no intention to expand upon its scant commercial zoning, which has allowed Roxbury to protect its heritage and made it one of the most desirable weekend retreats in the area. All one has to do is drive into the center of town to realize that the one commercial building containing the General Store, Post Office, and a few private offices was established prior to the protective zoning laws of 1932. (Photo above: Lake Lillinonah on a crisp fall day.)
Its protective ethos has kept not only its architecture, but also its land intact and free of development. Roxbury has conserved 3,000 acres, or approximately 17% of its land area, as open space under the stewardship of the Roxbury Land Trust www.roxburylandtrust.org. The Trust was established in 1970 to preserve the community’s rural character and well they have. Under its protection are 22 different preserves with some 24 miles of trails throughout Roxbury’s fields, woodlands and along the Shepaug River. The trust does not allow ATVs or other motorized equipment on its land. To add to Roxbury’s recreational appeal, it also shares a border on Lake Lillinonah, a stunning man made lake in the Housatonic River watershed www.brookfieldct.org/lillinonah.htm.
Besides its miles of trails the Trust also stewards three working farms, a granite quarry and an 18th century iron ore mining and steel manufacturing site which is on the National Register of Historic Places: Mine Hill www.roxburylandtrust.org/minehill.html. The first mining operations began here in the mid-18th century with the hope of finding silver. Years later, the mine was found to contain spathic iron, specially adapted to steel making and a small smelting furnace was built, ushering in Roxbury’s “industrial age”. It is hard to imagine that what is now a recreational haven was once one of the smoky industrial centers that defined so many New England towns. (Photo: Mine Hill Preserve)
True to its classic, agricultural roots, Roxbury offers its residents and visitors many unique annual events. Old Roxbury Days, hosted by the Historical Society, provides a nostalgic sense of the past the town has worked so hard to preserve. The town’s popular Pickin’ and Fiddlin’ Contest is one of the best-kept secrets in blue grass festivals. Finally, bring the family to the annual Tractor Parade because kids of all ages will love it.
For more information about local government, the Booth Free School (K-5), the Region 12 Shepaug Valley Middle and High Schools (Grades 6 - 12) in Washington, and Roxbury’s parks and recreation please visit www.roxburyct.com.